General Motors places a pair of engineers on paid leave related to its ignition-switch recall, the first publicly disclosed staffing action out of the automaker’s internal investigation into the crisis, and says it will launch a new program encouraging others to speak up when they see a potential safety defect.

GM, which is recalling 2.6 million small cars worldwide to fix an issue linked to 13 deaths and 32 crashes, says the employee action comes out of a briefing by Anton Valukas, a former U.S. attorney who is examining the circumstances that led to a decade-long delay in calling the vehicles back for fixes.

“This is an interim step as we seek the truth about what happened,” CEO Mary Barra says in a statement. “It was a difficult decision, but I believe it is best for GM.”

The decision comes a week after Barra testified before two congressional hearings in Washington over why a known safety defect within the company was not acted upon sooner and why, at that time, no actions were taken against engineers involved in the program.

“For the life of me, I can’t understand why he still has a job,” said U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO), referring to an engineer who rubber-stamped a redesign for the ignition but did not change the part number.

A new part number might have created a red flag for GM safety crews and regulators.

Today’s news also signals progress in the Valukas investigation, which is expected to take 60 days since its launch on March 31. However, federal regulators are growing inpatient and Tuesday fined GM $28,000 and said the automaker would face another $7,000 daily if it did not start turning over documents related to the case.

In another response to the ignition-switch crisis, Barra announces at an employee meeting today GM has created a program called Speak Up for Safety. The program, the automaker says, should “remove perceived and real barriers to candid conversations between employees and their leaders as a step to foster a safety-first culture.”

Barra adds, “GM must embrace a culture where safety and quality come first. GM employees should raise safety concerns quickly and forcefully, and be recognized for doing so.”

A recently created Global Safety Group at GM will be tasked with following up on employee safety alerts either by taking action or closing the issue within a prescribed time period. Additional details will come in the next 30 days, GM says.

jamend@wardsauto.com